Jesus Isn’t Just for Church People

It’s a bit complicated to describe our congregation. Some would say they’re a captive audience. While that description makes me flinch, it’s not all wrong. The residents in this six-month rehabilitation program are required to attend our Sunday service. A spiritual component is part of their recovery along with individual and group counseling, recreation, and work.

chapel edit

We have a congregation of all men. Most of them are addicts. Their church practices are  fairly split between no church, protestant and Catholic. I would not describe them as church people. Few of them can navigate their way in the bible without searching the table of contents. You won’t hear them using words like abide or talk about sitting at Jesus’ feet or seeking his face. They don’t know the hymns of the church and, unlike the average church person, these men are very honest when they stand up to share in church.

All of them have come to us beaten down, in desperate need of a shower, clean clothes, a good sleep in a real bed and the consistency of three meals a day. There is more they need but that will come later. First, we tend to the physical. How will they hear the love of God if their stomachs growl with hunger?

“You cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.” William Booth, founder, The Salvation Army

ARC chapel and guitar

people kneeling

Many consider this a great opportunity we have to share Jesus with this group of men. I have found it to be more about them teaching me about grace.

“Jesus doesn’t belong to church people. But church people belong to Him, in Him, and through Him.” ― Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

They are visible reminders that “Jesus doesn’t belong to church people.” This community reminds me The Church isn’t contained by walls or evidenced by steeples and crosses. This group of men, “tore up from the floor up” as one has said, are being called into the church family. Jesus is calling them just as they are, dope sick and hopeless.

If ministry is about us teaching and leading others, then we’ve made it about ourselves and not about serving God and letting him teach us through others.

This group teaches me to look past the outside. They have taught me compassion for the panhandler rather than contempt. They teach me to be honest about my feelings. They’ve taught me that when I accept help I’m helping another. They’ve shown me real discipleship through the 12 Steps. They remind me we can’t do life on our own.

Our congregation may be filled with people who don’t know much about church, but they are people who are learning how The Church can be Jesus to them.

More about Debby Hudson

Where do you find grace? Inside the church walls? Around the dinner table with your family? For years, grace was not much more than the prayer we said before meals or a biblical concept. Then I met a group of men who had, as we say, reached bottom. They welcomed me to Graceland. They showing me grace can be found in the darkest of places. I'm still searching and learning. I hope you'll want to come along.

6 thoughts on “Jesus Isn’t Just for Church People

  1. Meghan Weyerbacher

    You are right, the church isn’t contained by walls or steeples – there is so much more. Great post, friend. I love your heart for others. The Word says when we are there for another, it’s like we were there for Jesus himself. Blessings!


    1. Debby Hudson

      Thanks Meghan. I love that portion in Matthew too. Something I need to keep in mind and heart always.


  2. Valerie Sisco

    How refreshing that your attendees don’t use those church-y words and instead come to God just as they are! I can imagine that this experience is so enriching for you as you come alongside and walk with them, seeing God with fresh eyes from their perspectives. You are involved in some holy work and you’re on the receiving end of some divine inspiration too!


    1. Debby Hudson

      It is exactly that, Valerie – refreshing. It helps me keep things in better perspective. God is so good.


  3. Sarah Donegan

    This is who we need to surround ourselves with. Jesus came for the sick, not the well.
    I love the pictures!


    1. Debby Hudson

      Sarah, I remember the first time I heard a pastor say the church is a hospital for the sick not a home for the saints. Thanks for the affirmation.


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